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What Is Vitamin K Good For In The Body

Key Health Benefits Of Vitamin K1

The health benefits of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin required for bone and heart health. Its mainly involved in the mineralization of your bones and teeth, as well as healthy blood clotting. Vitamin K has two forms: vitamins K1 and K2. Vitamin K1, also called phytonadione and phylloquinone, is found in plant foods. Vitamin K2 is found in animal products but is also synthesized from vitamin K1 in your intestines.

Both forms of vitamin K play vital roles in the body, and deficiency can cause weak bones, tooth decay, heart disease, and other health problems. Supplementing with vitamin K1 helps ensure you dont become deficient in either form of this essential nutrient. Moreover, supplementation has been linked to better heart and brain health, cancer prevention and even longevity. In fact, one study found that higher intakes of vitamin K1 results in a lower risk of mortality from any cause .

1. Its Responsible for Healthy Blood Clotting

Without enough vitamin K, you can bruise easily, experience nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and even blood in the urine and stool. In women, vitamin K deficiency causes heavy menstrual bleeding . Due to its role in healthy blood clotting, vitamin K reduces excessive menstrual bleeding, known as menorrhagia. Menorrhagia is associated with menstrual cramping and pain, and studies have shown that vitamin K reduces these symptoms and the amount of bleeding women with menorrhagia experience .

2. Boosts Brain Health

3. Protects Your Heart

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Several vitamins can be dangerous when you take too much of them, but for most people, vitamin K isn’t one of them. The only people who could get too much vitamin K are those taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin.

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Most people won’t experience any effects from too much vitamin K. For people taking warfarin, suddenly increasing vitamin K can interfere with how well the medication works.

What Foods Contain Vitamin K

We can find the two natural forms of vitamin K in plants or animal-based foods.

Plant-based foods rich in vitamin K include:

  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • some seed and vegetable oils
  • spreadable vegetable fats

Animal-based foods rich in vitamin K include:

  • meat and meat products
  • poultry
  • cheese and other dairy products
  • blended fats and oils.

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Why Do People Take Vitamin K

Low levels of vitamin K can raise the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. While vitamin K deficiencies are rare in adults, they are very common in newborn infants. A single injection of vitamin K for newborns is standard. Vitamin K is also used to counteract an overdose of the blood thinnerCoumadin.

While vitamin K deficiencies are uncommon, you may be at higher risk if you:

  • Have a disease that affects absorption in the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or active celiac disease
  • Take drugs that interfere with vitamin K absorption
  • Are severely malnourished
  • Drink alcohol heavily

In these cases, a health care provider might suggest vitamin K supplements.

Uses of vitamin K for cancer, for the symptoms of morning sickness, for the removal of spider veins, and for other conditions are unproven. Learn more about vitamins k2 and d3 as well as which foods pack the highest amount.

Dietary Sources Of Vitamin K

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Vitamin K1 is mostly found in green vegetables, although legumes and berries also boast this nutrient. You can boost your vitamin K status by making sure green leafy vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, or collard greens get plenty of rotation through your weekly meal plan. Leafy greens can be added to a wide variety of recipes to easily boost dietary intake and ensure you dont get bored or feel like youre living off of salads.

You can reach for mostly animal-based products such as eggs and liver to get vitamin K2. Your body can convert K1 to K2, but researchers believe this process is inefficient. So though K2 is found in small quantities in food, it may be most efficient to get this vitamin from your dietary intake rather than relying on your bodys conversion processes. Natto, a fermented soy product, is actually the richest food source of K2, delivering 775 micrograms of the MK-7 form of vitamin K2 in a 100-gram serving .

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How To Take It

As with all supplements, check with a health care provider before taking vitamin K or giving it to a child.

People whose bodies cant absorb enough vitamin K, because of gallbladder or biliary disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease, will probably get more benefit from a multivitamin containing vitamin K than an individual vitamin K supplement. In certain circumstances, your doctor may give you a vitamin K shot.

The daily Adequate Intake for vitamin K is:

Pediatric

  • Infants birth – 6 months: 2 mcg
  • Infants 7 – 12 months: 2.5 mcg
  • Children 1 – 3 years: 30 mcg
  • Children 4 – 8 years: 55 mcg
  • Children 9 – 13 years: 60 mcg
  • Adolescents 14 – 18 years: 75 mcg

A single injection of vitamin K is also given at birth.

Adult

  • Men 19 years and older: 120 mcg
  • Women 19 years and older: 90 mcg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 75 mcg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 90 mcg

May Have Anticancer Benefits

A few studies have indicated that vitamin K2 may help reduce the recurrence of liver cancer and increase survival. And in a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that men with a high intake of vitamin K2 had a 63% lower risk for advanced prostate cancer.

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Get Your Coagulation Vitamin

Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that comes in two forms, vitamin K1 and K2. K1 primarily has benefits for blood clotting, while K2 has additional benefits for bone, heart, and brain health, as well as potential cancer prevention. Although the recommended daily intake for vitamin K is only based on vitamin K1, K2 supplementation may be recommended to avoid deficiency, especially for plant-based eaters, since its plant-based sources are limited.

Tell us in the comments:

  • What food sources of vitamin K1 and/or K2 do you currently eat? What are some sources of vitamin K2 you could add?
  • Have you ever had your vitamin K or osteocalcin levels checked?
  • Do you take any supplements containing vitamin K2?

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The Health Benefits of Vitamin K

Ageno, W., Crowther, M., Steidl, L., Ultori, C., Mera, V., Dentali, F., Squizzato, A., Marchesi, C., and Venco, A. Low dose oral vitamin K to reverse acenocoumarol-induced coagulopathy: a randomized controlled trial. Thromb.Haemost. 2002 88:48-51. View abstract.

Ageno, W., Garcia, D., Silingardi, M., Galli, M., and Crowther, M. A randomized trial comparing 1 mg of oral vitamin K with no treatment in the management of warfarin-associated coagulopathy in patients with mechanical heart valves. J.Am.Coll.Cardiol. 8-16-2005 46:732-733. View abstract.

Andersen, P. and Godal, H. C. Predictable reduction in anticoagulant activity of warfarin by small amounts of vitamin K. Acta Med.Scand. 1975 198:269-270. View abstract.

Bakhshi, S., Deorari, A. K., Roy, S., Paul, V. K., and Singh, M. Prevention of subclinical vitamin K deficiency based on PIVKA-II levels: oral versus intramuscular route. Indian Pediatr. 1996 33:1040-1043. View abstract.

Beker, L. T., Ahrens, R. A., Fink, R. J., O’Brien, M. E., Davidson, K. W., Sokoll, L. J., and Sadowski, J. A. Effect of vitamin K1 supplementation on vitamin K status in cystic fibrosis patients. J.Pediatr.Gastroenterol.Nutr. 1997 24:512-517. View abstract.

Booth, S. L., Broe, K. E., Gagnon, D. R., Tucker, K. L., Hannan, M. T., McLean, R. R., Dawson-Hughes, B., Wilson, P. W., Cupples, L. A., and Kiel, D. P. Vitamin K intake and bone mineral density in women and men. Am.J.Clin.Nutr. 2003 77:512-516. View abstract.

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It Is Possible That Vitamin K2 Could Help To Counteract The Actions Of Statins Warfarin And Vegetable Oils

What do statins, warfarin, and vegetable oils all have in common?

All of them have a tendency to stand in the way of bodily processes which require vitamin K2 in order to work.

This can actually lead to severe health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone fractures, kidney disease, and psychological disorders .

Taking vitamin K2 wont necessarily curb these effects directly since these substances will still exert their influence.

But it may help to give the same processes the statins are interfering with a bit of a boost by providing them with more vitamin K2.

This in turn may help to protect your overall health if you need to take warfarin or statins or use vegetable oil.

KEY POINT: Statins, warfarin and vegetable oil all can interfere with processes which depend on vitamin K2. Taking vitamin K2 supplements might feasibly help to offset these negative effects a bit.

Whats The Difference Between Vitamin K2 Mk

As weve seen, the chemical difference between MK-4 and MK-7 is the length of their carbon chain tails. But, in nature, Vitamin K2 variants have different biological sources and somewhat different actions in the body.

All forms of dietary Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2 MK-7 can be converted to Vitamin K2 MK-4.

In the body:

Vitamin K1 & MK-7 -> MK-4 The conversion of K1 to K2 isnt well understood. Best evidence suggests you need to obtain Vitamin K2 MK-4 from your diet.

Vitamin K2 MK-4 Sourced from animal products

Food sources of MK-4:

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Treating Vitamin Deficiency In Newborns

Vitamin K is given as an injection to newborns to prevent vitamin K deficiency bleeding. The blood clotting factors of newborn babies are roughly 30â60% that of adult values this appears to be a consequence of poor transfer of the vitamin across the placenta, and thus low fetal plasma vitamin K. Occurrence of vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the first week of the infant’s life is estimated at 0.25â1.7%, with a prevalence of 2â10 cases per 100,000 births. Human milk contains 0.85â9.2 μg/L of vitamin K1, while infant formula is formulated in range of 24â175 μg/L. Late onset bleeding, with onset 2 to 12 weeks after birth, can be a consequence of exclusive breastfeeding, especially if there was no preventive treatment. Late onset prevalence reported at 35 cases per 100,000 live births in infants who had not received prophylaxis at or shortly after birth. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding occurs more frequently in the Asian population compared to the Caucasian population.

Bleeding in infants due to vitamin K deficiency can be severe, leading to hospitalization, brain damage, and death. Intramuscular injection, typically given shortly after birth, is more effective in preventing vitamin K deficiency bleeding than oral administration, which calls for weekly dosing up to three months of age.

How Much Vitamin K You Need Each Day

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Unlike other vitamins that come with a recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, the NIH recommends an adequate intake, or AI, when it comes to vitamin K. AIs are applied when there isn’t enough data for an RDA to be established.

You can think of AIs and RDAs pretty interchangeably. In both cases, the recommended intake is the amount that is either proven or estimated to be adequate to meet most healthy people’s daily needs for a particular nutrient.

Here’s how much vitamin K you should get daily, per the NIH.

Average Daily Recommended Amounts

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Vitamin K1 Vs Vitamin K2

The next thing you need to know about vitamin K is that there are two main types used by your body.

These are known as vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

Vitamin K1 is sometimes known as “phylloquinone.”

The vast majority of the vitamin K that you consume takes the form of vitamin K1.

It accounts for around 75-90% of all the K vitamins that you eat .

Vitamin K2 on the other hand is not nearly as common. You may eat it sometimes in animal products or foods which have been fermented.

Interestingly enough, your body also produces it, courtesy of the healthy bacteria which live in your digestive tract.

There are actually a few different subcategories of vitamin K2. They are known as “menaquinones,” which is abbreviated as “MKs.

Each has a number attached to the end which signifies how long their side chains are. At the lower end is MK-4, and at the upper end is MK-15.

KEY POINT: The two main types of K vitamins are denoted as vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

Vitamin K1 makes up around 75-90% of the vitamin K in your diet, while vitamin K2 is the second most abundant form.

May Help Keep Blood Pressure Down

Getting an adequate intake of vitamin K may also be essential to your heart health because it may be able to help prevent hypertension and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease . Low vitamin D and K status have been linked to hypertension with increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure . Like D, vitamin K interacts closely with calcium in your body, in this case, helping to regulate the levels of this mineral in your blood. Vascular calcificationa process in which minerals like calcium are deposited in blood vessels, blocking blood flow over timeis common as we age. But getting the proper amount of vitamin K may help prevent mineralization, staving off this process, and keeping blood pressure lower.

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May Support Brain Health

Vitamin K2 seems to be involved in processes that help protect your brain as you age. For instance, it plays a role in the production of compounds called sphingolipids, which are highly concentrated in the brain . Changes in the metabolism of sphingolipids have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers. Recent evidence also suggests that vitamin K2 may help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, and may influence psychomotor behavior and brain function.

May Help Prevent Heart Disease

Vitamin K: Your Questions Answered

The jury is still out on the exact role vitamin K plays in heart health, but the link likely has to do with a compound called matrix gla protein, or MGP.

MGP is yet another vitamin K-dependent protein that inhibits calcification in the blood, soft tissues and bones. That’s important, because vascular calcification is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, per 2020 research in Current Medicinal Chemistry.

Though more research is needed on this topic, some theorize that without sufficient vitamin K, MGP will not prevent calcification as normal, which may in turn hike up heart disease risk.

What About Vitamin K for Easy Bruising?

A severe vitamin K deficiency may cause symptoms related to increased bleeding, including nosebleeds or bleeding into the skin, causing bruising, according to Merck Manuals. Properly prescribed vitamin K supplements may help decrease bruising if you have a true vitamin K deficiency. However, vitamin K deficiency is rare, and if your bruising is caused by anything else, increased vitamin K intake is unlikely to help your condition.

A few small studies have indicated that vitamin K creams may help with healing bruises, but more research needs to be done in this area.

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Warfarin And Vitamin K

There is one exception. If you are taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin, you do have to be careful with K, avoiding both low and high vitamin K levels. Warfarin, brand name Coumadin, is prescribed to help prevent blood clots or prohibit their growth. Because vitamin K helps your blood to clot, it works against warfarin.

Maintaining a balance between the two is crucial, so it’s important not to suddenly increase or decrease your intake of vitamin K. According to Michigan Medicine, you can consume whatever amount of vitamin K you would like, but the amount needs to remain consistent from day to day. So, if you eat a lot of green vegetables normally, don’t suddenly stop eating them if you take a vitamin K supplement, don’t stop taking it.

If you decide you want to increase or decrease your vitamin K intake, it’s important to discuss with your doctor the best way to do that, as your dosage may need adjusting either up or down.

If you’re taking warfarin, you likely get regular blood tests to determine its efficacy. Your lab results will provide your prothrombin time and international normalized ratio values. Your INR values should stay in a safe range if they are too high or too low, it may be because of the interaction between warfarin and vitamin K.

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Vitamin K2 To Prevent Varicose Veins

Vitamin K2 activates matrix-Gla protein to mop up calcium in vessels, cardiovascular benefits. Calcification of veins has been shown to be a contributor to varicose veins, so Vitamin K2 may also prevent varicose veins. Varicose veins are not always detrimental to our health but can be unsightly and uncomfortable.

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What Food Sources Contain Vitamin K1

If you want to increase your intake of vitamin K1, you can get it from any of the following foods in abundance :

  • Broccoli: 220 mcg
  • Brussels sprouts: 218 mcg

Notice that many of these are leafy green vegetables. These foods are incredibly nutritious for you all around.

They are rich not just in vitamin K1, but in many other vitamins and minerals which your body needs for optimum health.

Most people can use more of them in their diets, so food sources are a great way to get more vitamin K1.

KEY POINT: Leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin K1, and are very nutritious in general.

Increase your intake of them if you want to boost your vitamin K1 levels.

What Food Sources Contain Vitamin K2

VITAMINS. History of the discovery of vitamins

As just discussed, vitamin K2 actually comes in a number of different subtypes.

Some subtypes can be manufactured by bacteria while others cannot.

The MK-4 subtype is an example of a form of vitamin K2 which bacteria do not create.

You can however get MK-4 through chicken, butter, and egg yolks.

Bacteria do produce subtypes MK-5 through MK-15. That means that they are common in foods which are fermented.

If you are looking to get more MK-8 and MK-9, you can do so by increasing your consumption of cheeses.

Here are some foods to add to your regular menu to increase your vitamin K2 intake .

  • Natto: 1,062 mcg
  • Soft cheeses: 57 mcg
  • Egg yolk: 32 mcg

Some other foods which are high in vitamin K include carrot juice, pumpkin, pomegranate juice, okra, pine nuts, blueberries, Caesar salad dressing, chicken breast, iceberg lettuce, grapes, vegetable juice, cashews, and raw carrots.

KEY POINT: You need to eat a variety of foods to get vitamin K2, because the different subtypes are found in different foods.

Animal products, fermented foods, and cheeses are good choices.

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